This Kuala Pilah seamstress makes unique home decor pieces by upcycling unwanted materials

Nani with the wall art piece she made from dried branches. Photos: Rafidahnani Afandi

Two years ago, seamstress Rafidahnani Afandi, 43, decided to dabble in a few DIY projects. She started by making a wooden book rack, a picture frame using twigs and branches, and a wall decoration made from dried palm fronds.

Since then, she’s gone on to create over 100 eye-catching pieces, including a TV frame made from recycled wood and dragonfly-inspired wall decorations fashioned from fan blades. Recently, the carpentry enthusiast also crafted a lamp holder from just three materials – cardboard, masking tape and twigs.

Her designs are undoubtedly unique, and it isn’t surprising that her Facebook and Instagram posts have received much attention. (Both accounts have over 3,500 followers each.)

Nani collecting twigs and branches for her DIY home decoration projects.

The mother-of-two from Kampung Teremis – an hour’s drive from Seremban – never expected she’d go on to carve a name for herself as as a popular local DIY influencer among craft enthusiasts.

“I enjoy DIY projects because they help to polish and improve my carpentry skills. There’s always a sense of satisfaction after completing each project. My friends and social media followers are always encouraging and that further fuels my passion to try newer projects, ” says Rafidahnani, or Nani, over a phone interview.

Nani is thankful that her late mother, Waginum Saterua, taught her how to do carpentry when she was in primary school.

“My younger sister Norpadilah and I were raised by our mother when my parents got divorced. Life was tough back then. Mum worked hard as a rubber tapper and made lidi brooms to make ends meet. We couldn’t afford many things and Mum taught us to be self-reliant.

“We helped her make the kitchen table, chairs and book racks. When I think back, it is amazing how she crafted so many items with minimal tools, ” Nani says, her voice quavering as she remembers her mother.

A TV frame in the making, using a few pieces of recycled wood. Notice how Nani has created decorative wall pieces using steam racks and trays on the left?

Passing it on

Many people are intrigued by how Nani creates beautiful pieces with regular, everyday items. People are drawn to her humility and willingness to teach other crafters through step-by-step photos on Facebook and tutorials on her YouTube channel, House of Art.

“I’m grateful to receive so many positive comments from my followers, both men and women. And I’m especially proud to discover more women dabbling in DIY projects, ” says Nani.

Although she has a whole range of power tools, Nani still turns to her trusty handsaw to cut her wood pieces.

“There is a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction in using the handsaw.

“It’s hard work, but it tends to give more accurate cuts. Plus, my handsaw has the right flexibility, grip and comfort.

“Whatever tools you use, ensure safety measures are in place to avoid injury, ” advises Nani, who works on her DIY projects in between her sewing orders.

As a DIY enthusiast, Nani strongly encourages people to explore their creativity and think of ways to upcycle.

Given the country’s economic situation, Malaysians must think of ways to be more frugal with money, she adds.

“Creating DIY objects with used items is one way of being kinder to the environment.

“Instead of burning or throwing away an old wooden chair, why not repair or transform it into something reusable?”

By breathing new life into something old, Nani is also helping to preserve vintage treasures.

“Many old wooden furniture pieces are beautiful and unique. Plus, they hold many memories.

“Imagine the effort put in by a carpenter to make the items. I am always fascinated by the techniques used by olden day carpenters to make antique pieces.

“The methods are so different from how furniture is built today, ” explains Nani, who usually collects old wooden furniture and wood pieces from around her village. She also accepts unwanted furniture from friends.

So the next time you want to discard an old chair or cabinet, get some ideas from Nani on how to repurpose it.

It may be easier than you think.

Wooden bed frames, doors and tables can be upcycled and transformed into new things.

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